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Metro bankrolls Milwaukie projects

Millions to fund roads, trails and work on Lake Kellogg; Oregon City fares less well

Milwaukie is set to receive $3.6 million from the Metro Transportation Improvement Program, to pay for local road projects. The city will also benefit from an additional $2 million grant awarded by the regional government to pay for preliminary engineering on a proposed light rail line linking Milwaukie to downtown Portland.

'Metro awards about $50 million to the 25 cities that we represent every two years,' said Metro Councilor Brian Newman. 'There are always more requests than we have money available. We awarded $45 million this cycle, and there were a total of $132 million in requests.'

The largest single award, in the amount of $1.5 million, will pay for improvements to Harmony Road between 82nd Avenue and Highway 224.

'The long-term plan has always been to widen Harmony from three lanes to five lanes,' said Newman. 'Also, the railroad will be elevated, so that it passes overhead. When a long freight train goes through that intersection, it really ties up traffic.'

The railroad is also contributing money to the project, along with other community partners.

The trolley trail - a pedestrian path linking Milwaukie and Oregon City along the route of disused rail line - will receive $1.1 million to complete construction on the final phase of the project.

'It used to carry passengers and freight back and forth between Oregon City and Portland,' Newman explained. 'After it ceased operation, the alignment remained the property of a local utility. Metro purchased it five years ago with money from our greenspace bond, along with Clackamas Parks and Recreation.'

Engineering and design is already complete for the last stretch of the trail, which will run from north of Concord Street to Echo Glen, where it will link up to an existing trail in Gladstone.

In downtown Milwaukie, a $1 million grant will fund preliminary work related to the replacement of the Kellogg Bridge and the removal of the dam below, responsible for the formation of Kellogg Lake.

'Right now, the lake is like a bathtub - it's way too warm for fish,' said Newman. 'The plan has always been to return it to its natural state, which is more like a marsh.

'As to the bridge itself, they want to widen it so they can add full-sized sidewalks and a bicycle lane.'

The overall project is expected to cost $8.7 million, with this infusion of cash from Metro paying for engineering and design.

A planned MAX light rail alignment from downtown Portland to Milwaukie received $2 million in funding, again to pay for advanced design work. The overall project is expected to cost $880 million, with 60 percent of the overall funding flowing from the federal government.

'We're in the environmental impact phase of the project right now,' Newman said. 'When that's done, we'll seek approval from the feds to being preliminary engineering, which is what this money will pay for.

'Every step of the way, you have to follow their process. They don't want a lot of projects moving forward that don't have a realistic shot of getting funded.'

One local project that did not receive Metro's support was the second phase of Oregon City's McLoughlin Boulevard project, which would have beautified and enhanced the roadway between the Clackamas River bridge and the Rivershore Hotel. The city's proposal would have cost $2.8 million.

'It wasn't that there were any problems with Oregon City's project,' said Newman. 'There was just a lot of competition in that category. They ended up getting beaten out by a project in Portland and another one in Cornelius.'

Newman expressed his optimism that the project would eventually be funded.

'We're talking about doing a ballot measure in '08 for transportation issues, and if we can build a consensus around that, we could see this Oregon City project as a part of that proposal,' said Newman.